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Rikers Island will close: de Blasio

"New York City has always been better than Rikers Island," de Blasio said.
Rikers Island Getty Images

The Rikers Island jail complex will be closed, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday afternoon.

“New York City has always been better than Rikers Island. I am proud to chart a course for our city that lives up to this reality,” de Blasio said.

“Our success in reducing crime and reforming our criminal justice system has paved a path off Rikers Island and toward community-based facilities capable of meeting our criminal justice goals.”

The process will be “long and arduous,” the mayor cautioned.

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"Now, I emphasize, this will not happen overnight," he said during Friday's press conference. "This is going to take a lot of work. There is not quick fix here and anyone who says there is a quick fix isn’t being honest.

Comproller Scott M. Stringer, usually crital of the mayor's decisions, called de Blasio's move "the right thing."

“Rikers is a symbol of an antiquated approach," Stringer, who called for the closure of the complex in November 2015. "Today’s announcement is an important one, because we must be a society that gives people second chances. To do that, Rikers must shut down. The Mayor has done the right thing – and we celebrate it."

Prior to Friday, de Blasio had not publicly backed the idea, citing financial costs and how long it would take to shutter the facility.

Last year, de Blasio told reporters that the idea of closing the jail complex, with some 10,000 inmates who are mostly awaiting trial and therefore presumed innocent, was a "noble concept."

After widely reportedviolence at Rikers, including charges that prison guards brutally abused inmates, the idea of closing the facility has gained converts including prison reform advocates and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said it is "relieved that the end of Rikers Island is finally in sight."

"An institution as dysfunctional and corrupt as Rikers has no place in a humane justice system," NYCLU said in a statement. "[City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito] put closing Rikers front-and-center on everyone's agenda and we're pleased that the Lippman Commission’s plan has also won the support of the Mayor."

By housing inmates across New York City's five boroughs, instead of concentrating them on an island in the East River between Upper Manhattan and Queens, the city could save money, the commission's report said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

This article was originally published on March 31, 2017 at 5 p.m. and has been updated since.

 
 
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